Southern Poets and Poems, Part VI

A series by Clyde Wilson

FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (1779-1843) of Maryland.  The story is well known how Key composed “The Star-Spangled Banner” after he witnessed the repulse of the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbour in 1814. It casts an interesting light on the official U.S.  national anthem when one notes that Key’s grandson, Frank Key Howard, was one of the first persons seized and imprisoned by Lincoln in his illegal armed occupation of Maryland, and that all of Key’s kinfolks were Southern sympathizers, several serving in the Confederate Army. Like so much other Southern property, the anthem was confiscated for use of the Union in the War.  Key’s first selection refers to the Barbary War, in which the hero was Stephen Decatur, a Marylander.  Some of Key’s other verse may surprise readers who know only “The Star Spangled Banner.”                                                      

Song

When the warrior returns, from the battle afar,

To the home and the country he nobly defended,

O! warm be the welcome to gladden his ear

And loud be the joy that his perils are ended.

In the full tide of song let his fame roll along.

To the feast-flowing board let us gratefully throng,

Where, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,

And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

Columbians! A band of your brothers behold,

Who claim the reward of your heart’s warm emotion,

When your cause, when your honour, urged onward the bold.

In vain frowned the desert, in vain raged the ocean;

To a far distant shore, to the battle’s wild roar,

They rushed, your fair fame and your rights to secure:

Then, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave.

And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.  

In the conflict resistless, each toil they endured,

‘Till their foes fled dismayed from the war’s desolation.

And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscured

By the light of the star spangled flag of our nation.

Where each radiant star gleamed a meteor of war.

And the turbaned heads bowed to its terrible glare.

Now, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,

And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

Our fathers, who stand on the summit of fame,

Shall exultingly hear of their sons the proud story:

How their young bosoms glow’d with the patriotic flame,

How they fought, how they fell, in the blaze of their glory.

How triumphant they rode o’er the towering flood,

And stained the blue waters with infidel blood;

How, mixed with the olive, the laurel did wave,

And formed a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

Then welcome the warrior returned from afar

To the home and the country he nobly defended:

Let the thanks due to valour now gladden his ear,

And loud be the joy that his perils are ended.

In the full tide of song let his flame roll along,

To the feast-flowing board let us gratefully throng,

Where, mixed with the olive, the laurel shall wave,

And form a bright wreath for the brows of the brave.

                                                                * 

                                       The Star- Spangled Banner

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.

Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro’ the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream.

Tis the star-spangled banner; oh, long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore              

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a country should leave us no more?

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,  

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation;

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause. it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

*

Before the Lord We Bow

Before the Lord we bow, the God who reigns above,

And rules the world below, boundless in power and love.

Our thanks we bring in joy and praise, our hearts we raise

To Heaven’s high King.

The nation Thou has blest may well Thy love declare,

From foes and fears at rest, protected by Thy care.

For this fair land, for this bright day, our thanks we pay,

Gifts of Thy hand.

May every mountain height, each vale and forest green,

Shine in Thy Word’s pure light, and its rich fruits be seen!

May every tongue be turned to praise, and join to raise

A grateful song.

Earth, here thy Maker’s voice, thy great Redeemer own;

Believe, obey, rejoice, and worship Him alone.

Cast down thy pride, thy sin deplore and bow before

The Crucified.

And when in Power he comes, O may our native land,

From all its rending tombs, send forth a glorious band.

A countless throng, ever to sing Heaven’s high King

Salvation’s song.

About Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of www.shotwellpublishing.com, a source  for unreconstructed Southern books. More from Clyde Wilson

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